A Nerd in the Garden – Busy Spring

Spring Tulips

Cappuccino Lily

Cappuccino Lily

last year we spent a couple of months clearing out a lot of weeds and preparing our garden space. We put in 7 raised beds and planted them. We also mulched heavily with hazelnut shells. The mulching worked like a dream. This year there were very few weeds and they were easily pulled. The entire garden space looks neat and well cared for.

We learned also that the squash, pumpkins, zucchini and like vining vegetables will take up all the space they can. We had 20′ vines, possibly even longer. they have been banished to the side yard.

Gunnera

Gunnera

This year we put in two more raised beds and have been cleaning up the side yard. We have a problem with Himalayan Blackberries, which are very thorny and grow very fast. They are all but impossible to get rid of once they have gotten a foothold. Every year we tear out so many sharp thorny vines. The thorns go right through leather gloves. Those are probably the worst of the offenders, although no one told me that Clerodendrums propagate underground so I have to pull some Clerodendrum shoots every year. Likewise catnip. I planted it many years ago, all unaware of its propensity to propagate underground, for the neighborhood kitties. I’ve almost got the catnip out for good but it’s been a battle.

Of course there are the usual suspects too: Dandelions, thistles, broadleaf weeds, clover, various grasses and bindweed. There is a lot of weeding to do and clean up takes a lot of time and effort. It’s very satisfying when it is done though.

Raised Beds

Raised Beds

You may notice the inverted pot on the side of the raised bed. This is to set my sprinkler on. It gets it high enough that I’m not wasting a lot of water watering the sides of the beds and the pathways.

We have a gorgeous garden this year and at long last the flower bed we’ve been putting in the side yard is starting to look like we want it to. The attempt to dig up and move the Crocosmia was unsuccessful. It came back where it was dug up and did not grow where it had been planted. In the fall I will try again.

Rose Taboo, Mallow, Dutch Blue Iris and Crocosmia Lucifer

Rose Taboo, Mallow, Dutch Blue Iris and Crocosmia Lucifer

We planted dutch blue iris and they came up beautifully. Likewise lilies and earlier in the season tulips. The Gunnera is finally thriving. It’s a swamp plant so I have to water it frequently but I love it. We had to mulch it heavily to get it through the winter but it survived and has rewarded us by getting to a height of 4 feet. The leaves are easily 3 feet wide.

Spring Tulips

Spring Tulips

The area will take several years to get all of the weeds out and mulched, since we are doing it ourselves. Sure we could hire professional landscapers and they’d do it in a weekend but it would cost thousands of dollars that we just don’t have. By spreading out our planting, and our clean up and preparation we are dividing the project into manageable chunks and spreading out the cost so that we can pay as we go. It also gives us a chance to correct errors as we learn. Sure it’s going to take years to get this yard looking the way we want it to but it won’t consume too much of our time at one time and it won’t break our budget.

In the fall I planted a lot of tulips and lilies. It was a delight to see the tulips bloom this spring. The lilies are starting to bloom now and will carry through the late spring/early summer. Then the roses will be in full bloom. This year the roses got an early start.

Flower Bed

Flower Bed

Purple Prince Lily

Purple Prince Lily

A Nerd In The Garden: First Fresh Veggies

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

So i tried to grow my squash up cages to keep them all contained and well behaved. They grew up the cages, oh yes, and then they grew down the other side and started taking over the entire garden space. They look gorgeous and they are setting squash like there is no tomorrow. The squash are growing visibly from day to day. I cut up an old shirt to make little slings to support the squash so that their weight doesn’t damage the vine before they ripen.

Saturday I went out to water and there were all manner of pollinators in the garden just loving all the gorgeous yellow squash blooms. The bumble bee colony that has taken up residence behind my favorite rose bush was well represented as were other species of bumble bees and yes, even honey bees. I was gathering some roses to put in a vase inside and a honey bee, already heavily laden with pollen really wanted one of the roses I had cut. I held it for her and she alighted and gathered even more pollen then flew off.

The cucumbers, likewise, have grown up and out of their cages. Although to be fair I used smaller cages for them. Actually I used a couple of really small, really old tomato cages I had from my long ago garden. Now they are vining up the tomatoes.

Squash

Squash

Speaking of tomatoes, the Vintage Wine is just covered with little green tomatoes. The Yellow Brandywine haven’t set any fruit yet. They are just starting to flower so their tomatoes will come on after the Vintage Wine is slowing down.

There are only a handful of pea plants that have survived the squirrels digging in the garden. They are just starting to flower.

On a whim I picked up a packet of watermelon seeds. Yes it is really too late in the season to plant them but they were on clearance and watermelon is delicious. I put exactly two of the seeds in the ground and they have both come up. Now I’m just hoping for a little bit of an extended growing season. It could happen.

New Leaf on Black Magic

New Leaf on Black Magic

The elephant ear plants have new leaves on them. They were worrying me a bit since they were planted at the height of the heat wave and they hadn’t put out any new leaves for a few weeks, but now they have and I am quite pleased. They are gorgeous plants. I believe I have a Black Magic and an Illustris but I’m just guessing since neither one came with name tags when I got them. To be fair I got them on super close-out sale. I’m hoping that with a heavy mulching I won’t have to dig them up when the cold weather hits.

I also replaced the Gunnera and it is doing well. It was planted at the beginning of the heat wave and lost almost all of its original leaves to sunburn. One leaf survived and the crown has put out almost a dozen new leaves that are on short stems and protect the crown from the sun. it’s looking lush if a bit short. I have high hopes that it will get huge next year if I can get it to winter over. Again I’m looking to mulch it heavily when the cold weather hits.

The hummingbirds are very shy this year. I’ve only seen the mother bird a couple of times and I almost never hear the chicks any more. I only heard them once a couple of weeks ago. The mallow bush and crocosima are still blooming though and I am glad because I know they like to sip nectar from those plants. The little mother hummingbird was also sipping nectar from my clerodendrum which has approximately eleventy-billion flowers on it this year.

Illusins new leaf

Illusins new leaf

the clerodendrum has such a lovely scent when it blooms and it makes the whole yard smell just gorgeous. It has gotten about as large as it is supposed to and it does shade a corner of the yard but I really like it. The only thing is that it does try to propagate underground so I have to keep plucking out the suckers that try to come up. I didn’t know it would do that when I first got it.

A lot of this I’m learning, and figuring out, as I go along. Sure I consult the Google on occasion but mostly I’ve just jumped right in and I’m seeing how it works out. Next year I’m planting the squash away from the main garden so that when they vine all over the place they won’t take over the other vegetables.

squash in slings

squash in slings

The other major thing I’ve learned so far is not to use the cocoa shell mulch in the main garden. Hazelnut shells are better. The cocoa shells mould and get very slippery when they are watered. Also they draw flies.

I will keep updating the growth of the garden and what I learn. By time this season is over I hope to have weekly photos documenting the garden.

A Nerd In The Garden: Heartscaping & Raised Beds

Taboo

Solar Lights In The Garden

Solar Lights In The Garden

Because that is how it feels to me. An oasis of calm in the midst of chaos. A little place of rest and a tiny slice of nature in my backyard. It de-stresses me after all day at work and brings a surprising peace to my soul. It’s not much, I don’t have a lot of land or anything, but I get a little corner of the yard and with a lot of help we are turning it into a place of rest for mind if not body (gardening is hard, sweaty, dirty work; make no mistake).

We are also decorating a little bit. Apparently it’s called heartscaping. I’d never heard that term before but I kind of like it. I ordered solar lights that light up in the dark. There is a hummingbird, a butterfly and a dragonfly. We put them out and then weren’t out late enough to see if they actually worked. Sometimes decorative solar lights are a bit dicy and we’ve had spotty luck with them. To our delight all three of these work and they cycle through colors too.

We have, in the course of clearing out the spot and putting in the beds and weeding henseforth, been scratched, stabbed by thorns and bitten by little bitey insect things. We’ve dug up blackberry roots the size of my fist and had to leave pieces of blackberry root in the ground because we just couldn’t get them out. We pruned back an own-root rose that we planted a long time ago named Jude The Obscure. We weren’t sure if we had killed it or not between the brutal pruning and digging all the blackberrys out but in the last week it has leafed out all over. I’m pleased that it survived and seems very happy.

Growing Garden

Growing Garden

Some critter has been digging up the second bed of potatoes, could be the mole that invited himself into the yard the week after we got all the beds installed. Could be a raccoon, we do have a family of them living around here. Either way it killed the onion sets on its way to the potato bed, so I had to rake off the mulch and replant seeds.

Peas had to be re-planted too, as some of them had been broken off by the night-time visiting critter. The cages I put up around the surviving peas seem to have discouraged said critter from climbing into that bed. The brussel sprouts had to be thinned and I was able to transplant the few that were too close to others into bare spots in the bed.

After loosing the original Gunnera to a late freeze, we finally got a new one and put it replacement Gunnera in the ground just slightly south of the spot I planted the original one. Then we had some very hot days and it got a tiny bit, well ok about 30%, sunburned. I’m taking care to deeply water it every day now until it gets its root system established.

Vintage Wine

Vintage Wine

The first tomato has set. It’s on Vintage Wine. The other two tomato plants, both yellow Brandywine types are growing huge but havent’ got any flowers yet. The Vintage Wine has quite a few flowers on it already.

We picked up two cucumber starts, a lemon cucumber and a more traditional heirloom whose name I forget, my apologies. We also picked up an heirloom melon start at the farmer’s market. I planted all three in the same bed with the tomatoes. There’s quite a bit of basil and purple basil coming up in that bed too.

My roses have been blooming like crazy this year. I’ve been pruning them and getting a vase of roses every week. While I remember the names of most of them, I must confess that I’ve forgotten the names of a couple of them.

Honor, my only white rose, was languishing in the spot it was in. It was a bad spot to begin with but I was new to rose gardening and didn’t know better. Finally after many years of talking about moving her, we did today. She may not survive but she was dying where she was anyway.

Taboo

Taboo

Either Amethyst or Peace will have to be moved next. Both are unhappy where they are at and I’d like to give them a better spot. I finally dug the blackberries out from around Chicago Peace and it is very happy. There’s still one blackberry root I need to get out and eventually I will. We transplanted Taboo last year and at first it was very happy but this year not so much. I don’t know what has changed but I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Taboo is my only red rose.

Distant Drums

Distant Drums

I’ve been looking for the hummingbirds this year. The mallow bush is in bloom but I haven’t seen them. I am afraid things are blooming too early and the hummingbirds might be late. They need that food too. I will keep you updated, gentle reader. K

Of Gardening, Bettas, Mystery Snails and Monsters

Gipsy in the coral decoration

Gipsy in the coral decoration

This summer I let my garden lay fallow, which is code for not doing anything with it. My Gunnera was killed in a late freeze in the spring and I never got around to replanting. Work kept me so busy I didn’t get to my garden and after a while the weeds took over.

Fear not! This December we are going to have the trees pruned and then I will prepare my garden for the spring. I am going to plant another Gunnera or two and watch carefully for unseasonal freezes so that they don’t die.

Despite my neglect, the hummingbirds returned and enjoyed the flowers. They nested in the same tree, much to my delight. Next year I will plant even more flowers for them to enjoy.

Degarla, a golden mystery snail, center and Gipsy.

Degarla, a golden mystery snail, center and Gipsy.

I got a Betta this fall to shower with my repressed pet love. I can’t have a cat due to severe allergies. So I now have the most spoilt crown tail Betta on the planet. I named him Gipsy Danger (don’t judge me). I also got two mystery snails to keep Gipsy company and clean the tank. Degarla (named after the monster in The Rebirth of Mothra) is a golden mystery snail and Ebriah (Horror of the Deep: from Godzilla vs Ebriah (the sea monster)) is blue. Again, don’t judge me.

I had no idea that fish had personalities. Gipsy dances for me when he sees me and he breaches to eat bits of thawed pea off my fingers. I found, via the power of Google, that giving a Betta a bit of pea once a week helps keep their little digestive tracts healthy, plus Gipsy loves it.

Gipsy

Gipsy

Also, when naming mystery snails after giant monsters it seems that they take that kind of thing seriously. Degarla has doubled in size since I got him (or her, I can’t tell). Ebriah is taking a bit longer to get huge but is working on it. Everything I read about them said they need supplemental food to be healthy so I picked up some alge discs and give them one per day.

I was appalled by how hungry Ebriah seemed to be when I got him (or her) home. She (or he) ate a whole one by herself. Also Degarla loves to be inside the coral cave decoration I got for them during the day. I took it out to clean it and Degarla tried desperately do dig under some rocks for the day. Gipsy also loves the coral cave decoration. He likes to pretend he’s a moray eel. Ok maybe not but I imagine he might be pretending that when he hides in there and only pokes his little head out. It doesn’t help that he likes to pop the snails off the glass and watch them fall to the bottom of the tank.

Ebriah, a blue mystery snail, playing in the plant.

Ebriah, a blue mystery snail, playing in the plant.

Gipsy takes his name to heart too. He’s kind of a jerk to the monster named snails. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to name my Betta after a giant Kaiju hunting Jaeger and then name my snails after Kaiju.

Speaking of Kaiju, my review of Godzilla Cataclysm Issue #4 will be published on Fangirlnation. Look for it there. Rest assured I will provide a link. I’m also reading the graphic novel of Godzilla The Half Century War. I’m about a quarter of a century into it. K.

A Little Bit of Gardening

IMG_2641

IMG_2641Well this heat has made my roses very happy–at least so long as I water them frequently. I only have one red rose and it was languishing in the spot I had originally chosen for it. Last fall we moved it to a better spot and it is flourishing.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

The hummingbirds I suspected were nesting in the neighbor’s tree which overhangs my garden proved to be doing just that. A few nights ago I was treated to the sight off 4 little ones buzzing around in the tree while the 2 parents watched from the top of the tree. I wish I could have gotten a picture but they are iridescent green against green leaves that are almost the same size as the birds and while I could see them when they flitted about, I doubt my cell phone could have captured enough detail for a picture to be worth while.

I also discovered that I have a spectacular gladiolus in my flowerbed. I don’t know how I lucked into this beauty but I hope it blooms again next year. Watering seems to be key when it gets warmer. Last year the gladiolus didn’t flower and I suspect it’s because I failed to water them enough.

Speaking of watering and growing, my Gunnera are growing very well. I’m very pleased with them. I hope they get huge next year. From what I’ve read about them, they take a year to establish themselves.

Gunnera

Gunnera

I also have some Coleus that is happy as can be and some New Zealand Impatiens that are gorgeous and flowering for the second time since I got them. K.

New Zealand Impatien

New Zealand Impatien

In My Garden: A Rose Called Distant Drums and Hummingbirds

Distant Drums bud

Distant Drums bud

Distant Drums bud

My garden is a source of great satisfaction, peace and joy for me. I have several rose bushes and one of my favorites is one named Distant Drums. It has a mauve, dusty rose color to the blooms that I find soothing and gorgeous. This week it has burst into bloom. I have some lovely pictures to share with you.

The hummingbirds are still visiting the Crocosmia Lucifer, much to my delight. I had planned on removing most of the flowers and moving the rest of them to other places but I’m going to hold off on that so long as the hummingbirds visit.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

It has been quite dry here so I’ve had to water more than normal. My Gunnera isn’t grwoing as large as I would like but I suspect it’ll take a year or two to develop a large enough root system to produce the really huge leaves I’m looking for.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

My gladiolus is blooming one at a time. I’ve got three coming on but they don’t look like they will bloom together. It keeps my garden pretty though to have different flowers blooming at different times.

I also have this gorgeous double flower daylily I got from a neighbor who was moving out and had some landscaping done. They were throwing away the plants and asked if I wanted any. Since I had a corner of my garden that needed a ground cover and I love flowers I accepted a few of them. Much like the Crocosmia Lucifer, these are naturalizing quite nicely. K.

Double flower daylily--name unknown

Double flower daylily–name unknown

Distant Drums in bloom

Distant Drums in bloom

Adventures in Gardening: Lilies, Roses and an Update on my Gunnera.

Love
--photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Gunnera (Giant Rhubarb) --Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Gunnera (Giant Rhubarb)
–Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Those of you who have been following my little blog here know that a couple months ago I bought not one but two giant rhubarb plants. Why would I do such a crazy thing? Well because they were really cute in the nursery pots and they were extremely reasonably priced compared to other like sized potted plants (now I know why). So I got two, because if one is good, obviously two is better. Then I got home and despite having a smart phone, it was only then that I decided it might be a good idea to google the things and see what they would do. O. M. Goodness. 8′-9′ tall with 7′ leaves. But they are so cool looking! So I planted them anyway. After about 3 weeks in the ground (yes I let them sit in their pots for a week or so trying to figure out where I could put them without annoying the neighbors), they’re happy and growing.
Gunnera (Giant Rhubarb) --photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Gunnera (Giant Rhubarb)
–photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Calla Lilies --Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Calla Lilies
–Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

I also have calla lilies I planted and for reasons unknown, although I suspect micro-climates, they have never thrived. I’ve babied, fertalized, moved, divided and done everything in my power to make them happy. This year, they are finally blooming and blooming beautifully. I’m so happy. I love the speckled foliage and the colors of these calla lilies are just gorgeous.
Calla Lilies --photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Calla Lilies
–photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Finally my roses. I have here Love, which is very happy in its new spot. We had to transplant it a couple of years ago when its old spot got shaded by a neighbor’s maple tree. Also I have pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales which is one of my favorite roses. I may have to move it this year. It’s struggling where its at and it is just too beautiful to let languish in a bad spot.

Diana Princess of Wales --photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Diana Princess of Wales
–photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Love --photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Love
–photo by K. L. Zolnoski

I’ll have more pictures of my garden as the summer progresses. I will also keep you updated on the status of my Gunnera (giant rhubarb). Not just because the Gunnera Manicata is very cool but because it is such a great story to tell. Also, I love my garden and I get such lovely pictures to share. I hope you enjoy them. K.

Gardening and In The Flesh on Barnes and Noble

Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

I spent some quality time in the garden yesterday; mostly weeding. I tossed my first slug in true Pacific Northwest fashion. Then I felt guilt. I don’t like to see even slugs suffer. I don’t like them eating my garden either. It’s a real conundrum. I’ve been making steady progress on my garden and it is starting to look just lovely. I have to confess that I had let the weeds get a real head start on me this year and weeds show no mercy. My advice is not to let them get a huge lead, like I did. I am concerned about one rose bush. It seems to be struggling where its at. If it doesn’t start to thrive better I’ll have to move it in the fall.

Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

Photo by K. L. Zolnoski

I planted both Gunnera and they seem quite happy where I’ve put them. I picked up a couple other really lovely plants to add to my garden. I like perennials because I like them wintering over. I do get some annuals because they’re just so beautiful and provide color when the perennials aren’t blooming.

I did get several copies of In The Flesh in print. I had considered some kind of contest to give one or two away but friends and family swooped down upon them and alas, I’m down to 1 copy. That copy is earmarked for the Humansville library. When I order more copies, and I will eventually, I will look into a contest more.

Also as I mentioned but did not feature, In The Flesh is available through Barnes and Noble for the Nook